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Pro-voucher group gets a new name and parent organization

Micaela Watts

A Tennessee education advocacy group that promotes school choice announced Thursday that it has a new brand and new national management, but the same mission.

StudentsFirst Tennessee is now TennesseeCAN: Tennessee Campaign for Action Now. It will continue to champion policies that broaden education options such as charter schools and private school tuition vouchers, according to executive director Brent Easley.

The group’s parent organization, California-based StudentsFirst, merged this spring with 50CAN, another national advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

“… This merger represents a great opportunity to combine the strengths of both organizations for an improved and more effective advocacy effort,” Easley said.

As part of its relaunch, the Tennessee group released its first-ever report offering an interactive snapshot of the state of Tennessee’s public schools.

StudentsFirst, founded in 2010 by former District of Columbia Public Schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, has steadily and significantly winnowed down its national presence since 2014. Its Tennessee chapter, launched in 2011, was one of its last remaining strongholds. This year, the chapter advocated for tuition vouchers, which came the closest ever to passing before stalling on the House floor, and successfully lobbied for a system to assign letter grades to schools. The group also financially backed state lawmakers that support policies to expand school choice.

TennesseeCAN is among a crowded field of advocacy groups with similar policy agendas, including Stand For Children, Tennessee Federation For Children, and Democrats For Education Reform.

It’s the second time this year that a Tennessee education advocacy group has rebranded itself. In July, the state’s chapter of the Black Alliance for Educational Options broke off of the national organization and renamed itself The Campaign for School Equity.

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